Dutch Language Blog

5 Things You Need To Know When Visiting Family! Posted by on Jul 3, 2014 in Culture, Dutch Vocabulary

When you visit your family in the Netherlands, on a Familiedag (family day) for example, you will meet many people. They all want something from you, you want something from them… What do you need to know? 5 things below.

The family... (Image by Asen Museum og Historielag on flickr.com)

The family… (Image by Asen Museum og Historielag on flickr.com)

1. First of all, you need to know how to address them. Check out these words:

Grootmoeder/Oma – Grandmother

Grootvader/Opa – Grandfather

Vader – Father

Papa/pap – dad

Moeder – Mother

Mama/mam – mum

Zoon – Son

Dochter – Daughter

Kleinzoon – grandson

Kleindochter – granddaughter

Oom – Uncle

Tante – Aunt

Neef – cousin (m) (can also mean nephew)

Neefje – nephew (can also mean cousin, but would normally mean nephew, because it is belittled)

Nicht – cousin (f) (can also mean niece)

Nichtje – niece (can also mean cousin, but would normally mean niece, because it is belittled)

Achter- – great- (e.g. achternicht – greatniece)

But how do you use these words? Back in the days, it was quite common to refer to your father as vader, but nowadays papa is more mainstream. The same for moeder, which is now mama. Mam and pap are just simplified versions of those two. This also happened with grootvader and grootmoeder. Nowadays, it is quite normal to call them opa and oma, also when talking about them with others. Vader and moeder is still used in such conversations too.

Then another fine line exists between neef and nicht. It is assumed that the young are not an oom yet. So if you say neef or nicht then, it is not assumed you refer to your nephew and niece, but to your cousins. If you say neefje or nichtje, this refers to your nephew or niece.

Though there is a word that sounds like cousin- kozijn, this means something entirely different. It is a frame of a door or window for example – raamkozijn (window frame).


2. How do you say hi? That is quite important, otherwise… How do you meet them?

Hallo/hey/hoi/hai – hi (but quite informal)

Goedendag/-middag/-avond – Good day/afternoon/evening (formal)


3. What if you really find it a pleasure to see them again, and you really want to make that clear to them?

Leuk je/u weer te zien! – Nice to see you again! (informal)

Geweldig je/u eindelijk te ontmoeten! – Awesome to finally meet you!

Het is een eer u te mogen ontmoeten. – It is an honor to be allowed to meet you. (very formal)

Wat fijn dat je/u er bent. – Great that you are here.

4. If you say hi to a woman, kiss her cheeks. But you are in the Netherlands, so kiss three times, starting with the right cheek. Ah well, it does not really matter what cheek you start with – if it leads to a laugh, it only helps the gezelligheid. Useful words…

Sorry! – Sorry!

Het spijt me. – I am sorry.

Dat was niet de bedoeling. – That was not the/my intention. (whether it means the or my depends on the context. If you are talking about your own doing, it refers to my. Otherwise it is the – which the sentence literally says).

5. At a certain point you want to leave. Because it is late, because you are fed up with the people and just want to go home, or because you really have something else planned. Try these…

Ik moet nu  echt gaan. – I really have to go now.

Ik moet weg! – I have to go!

Laten we gaan. – Let’s go.

Ik zou langer willen blijven, maar… – I’d like to stay longer, but…

Ik ben ontzettend moe. – I am extremely tired.

Mijn kinderen moeten naar bed -My children need to go to bed.

Zij zijn heel erg moe. – They are very tired.

Ik moet nog werken. – I still have work to do.

Mijn baas kent geen genade! – my boss doesn’t know mercy!


Do you have anything to add to these words and sentences? Please comment below. And good luck with your next family reunion ;-).


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About the Author: Sten

Hi! I am Sten, both Dutch and German. For many years, I've written for the German and the Dutch blogs with a passion for everything related to language and culture. It's fascinating to reflect on my own culture, and in the process allow our readers to learn more about it! Besides blogging, I am a German-Dutch-English translator, animator and filmmaker.